Commentaries - May 2013

Will Alexander: Absentia like a pre-atomic sigil

In  March 17, 2007, reading in the Segue Series at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York, Will Alexander read four poems: “Exercise is Particle Neutrino,” “Coping Prana,” “Compound Hibernation,” and “Above the Human Nerve Domain.” An audio recording of the complete reading (17:59) is available on Will Alexander’s PennSound author page, as are segmented audio for each poem. Here I’m pleased to feature “Compound Hibernation” [MP3; 2:22]. The text of the poem was published in Zen Monster.

Tom Leonard does the revolt of Islam in different voices, 1978

In 1978, Tom Leonard recorded “Three Texts for Tape” at his home in Glasgow using his Teac A-3340S tape recorder. One of these three “texts for tape” was a performance piece, a chanting of another poet’s verses — a multiple reading of a half canto of Percy Shelley’s “The Revolt of Islam” in many voices. Here is that recording (with thanks to the Archive of the Now): MP3 (4:37).

A gumbo of mumbo jumbo or a sub-rumba via Christopher Columbo

1.  "All human cultures are creole," John M. Bennett writes. Our language and our world view are hybrid, influenced by and adapting influences from the global village and our post-global home. They are inevitably syncretic and creole.

Absolutely. But Bennett’s use of the term ‘creole’ brings to mind the other meaning of creole. Creole as in the ‘creolisation’ of languages. How the language of a colonizing or dominant culture devolves into a pidgin and then develops into a creole, a rich communication tool with its own grammar, form and traditions, though often with a vocabulary based on the dominant language. So: Haitian Creole and its relationship to French.

Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Among the readings for the graduate seminar in black philosophy and theory that my students and I completed not long ago were the collected writings of philosopher and artist Adrian Piper, in which, among so many other projects, she reproduces the calling card she had printed up for use in one of her on-going projects from the 1970s.  Because Piper is, as we so deftly put it in America, a light-skinned black person, she has had the experience of being in a group of white people and hearing one of them tell a racist joke.  She had cards printed up that she would present to the tellers of such jokes, cards that explained that she was in fact a black person and that she found the telling of the joke objectionable.  This was not merely a personal campaign, you must understand, but was a sort of philosophical theater, for the presentation of the card was not simply a means to carry out a personal fight with racism.

Kristin Prevallet, 'Why Poetry Criticism Sucks'

A response to the conference titled “Poetry Criticism: What is it for?”— speakers Marjorie Perloff, Helen Vendler, Stephen Burt,and Michael Scharf, moderated by Susan Wheeler, at Wollman Hall, Cooper Union Engineering Building, 51 Astor Place, New York City, sponsored by the Poetry Society of America, early in 2000.

ACCORDING TO a recent article by Ian Hamilton in the London Review of Books, Randell Jarrell's descent into madness, and his speculated suicide, were in part provoked by a negative review in the New York Times accusing him of “doddering infantilism.” Jarrell, who was hailed on the Poetry Society of America's panel “Poetry criticism: What is it For?” as being the model poet-critic, apparently could not take the blow, after having dished out a fair share of them for so many years as “poetry's high-purposed body guard.”